Mrs. John Dashwood now installed herself mistress
of Norland; and her mother and sisters-in-law were degraded
to the condition of visitors. As such, however, they were
treated by her with quiet civility; and by her husband
with as much kindness as he could feel towards anybody
beyond himself, his wife, and their child. He really
pressed them, with some earnestness, to consider Norland
as their home; and, as no plan appeared so eligible
to Mrs. Dashwood as remaining there till she could
accommodate herself with a house in the neighbourhood,
his invitation was accepted.
A continuance in a place where everything reminded
her of former delight, was exactly what suited her mind.
In seasons of cheerfulness, no temper could be more cheerful
than hers, or possess, in a greater degree, that sanguine
expectation of happiness which is happiness itself.
But in sorrow she must be equally carried away by her fancy,
and as far beyond consolation as in pleasure she was
Mrs. John Dashwood did not at all approve of what her
husband intended to do for his sisters. To take three
thousand pounds from the fortune of their dear little boy
would be impoverishing him to the most dreadful degree.
She begged him to think again on the subject. How could
he answer it to himself to rob his child, and his only
child too, of so large a sum? And what possible claim
could the Miss Dashwoods, who were related to him only by
half blood, which she considered as no relationship at all,
have on his generosity to so large an amount. It was very
well known that no affection was ever supposed to exist
between the children of any man by different marriages;
and why was he to ruin himself, and their poor little Harry,
by giving away all his money to his half sisters?
"It was my father's last request to me," replied
her husband, "that I should assist his widow and daughters."
"He did not know what he was talking of, I dare say;
ten to one but he was light-headed at the time.
Had he been in his right senses, he could not have thought
of such a thing as begging you to give away half your
fortune from your own child."
"He did not stipulate for any particular sum,
my dear Fanny; he only requested me, in general terms,
to assist them, and make their situation more comfortable
than it was in his power to do. Perhaps it would
have been as well if he had left it wholly to myself.
He could hardly suppose I should neglect them.
But as he required the promise, I could not do less
than give it; at least I thought so at the time.
The promise, therefore, was given, and must be performed.
Something must be done for them whenever they leave Norland
and settle in a new home."
"Well, then, LET something be done for them;
but THAT something need not be three thousand pounds.
Consider," she added, "that when the money is once
parted with, it never can return. Your sisters will marry,
and it will be gone for ever. If, indeed, it could
be restored to our poor little boy--"
"Why, to be sure," said her husband, very gravely,
"that would make great difference. The time may come when
Harry will regret that so large a sum was parted with.
If he should have a numerous family, for instance, it would
be a very convenient addition."
"To be sure it would."
"Perhaps, then, it would be better for all parties,
if the sum were diminished one half.--Five hundred pounds
would be a prodigious increase to their fortunes!"
"Oh! beyond anything great! What brother on earth
would do half so much for his sisters, even if REALLY
his sisters! And as it is--only half blood!--But you
have such a generous spirit!"
"I would not wish to do any thing mean," he replied.
"One had rather, on such occasions, do too much than
too little. No one, at least, can think I have not
done enough for them: even themselves, they can hardly
"There is no knowing what THEY may expect,"
said the lady, "but we are not to think of their
expectations: the question is, what you can afford to do."
"Certainly--and I think I may afford to give them five
hundred pounds a-piece. As it is, without any addition
of mine, they will each have about three thousand pounds
on their mother's death--a very comfortable fortune
for any young woman."
"To be sure it is; and, indeed, it strikes me that
they can want no addition at all. They will have ten
thousand pounds divided amongst them. If they marry,
they will be sure of doing well, and if they do not,
they may all live very comfortably together on the interest
of ten thousand pounds."
"That is very true, and, therefore, I do not know whether,
upon the whole, it would not be more advisable to do
something for their mother while she lives, rather than
for them--something of the annuity kind I mean.--My sisters
would feel the good effects of it as well as herself.
A hundred a year would make them all perfectly comfortable."
His wife hesitated a little, however, in giving
her consent to this plan.
"To be sure," said she, "it is better than parting with
fifteen hundred pounds at once. But, then, if Mrs. Dashwood
should live fifteen years we shall be completely taken in."
"Fifteen years! my dear Fanny; her life cannot
be worth half that purchase."
"Certainly not; but if you observe, people always
live for ever when there is an annuity to be paid them;
and she is very stout and healthy, and hardly forty.
An annuity is a very serious business; it comes over
and over every year, and there is no getting rid
of it. You are not aware of what you are doing.
I have known a great deal of the trouble of annuities;
for my mother was clogged with the payment of three
to old superannuated servants by my father's will,
and it is amazing how disagreeable she found it.
Twice every year these annuities were to be paid; and then
there was the trouble of getting it to them; and then one
of them was said to have died, and afterwards it turned
out to be no such thing. My mother was quite sick of it.
Her income was not her own, she said, with such perpetual
claims on it; and it was the more unkind in my father,
because, otherwise, the money would have been entirely at
my mother's disposal, without any restriction whatever.
It has given me such an abhorrence of annuities, that I am
sure I would not pin myself down to the payment of one for
all the world."
"It is certainly an unpleasant thing," replied Mr. Dashwood,
"to have those kind of yearly drains on one's income.
One's fortune, as your mother justly says, is NOT one's own.
To be tied down to the regular payment of such a sum,
on every rent day, is by no means desirable: it takes away
"Undoubtedly; and after all you have no thanks for it.
They think themselves secure, you do no more than what
is expected, and it raises no gratitude at all. If I were you,
whatever I did should be done at my own discretion entirely.
I would not bind myself to allow them any thing yearly.
It may be very inconvenient some years to spare a hundred,
or even fifty pounds from our own expenses."
"I believe you are right, my love; it will be better
that there should by no annuity in the case; whatever I
may give them occasionally will be of far greater assistance
than a yearly allowance, because they would only enlarge
their style of living if they felt sure of a larger income,
and would not be sixpence the richer for it at the end
of the year. It will certainly be much the best way.
A present of fifty pounds, now and then, will prevent
their ever being distressed for money, and will, I think,
be amply discharging my promise to my father."
"To be sure it will. Indeed, to say the truth,
I am convinced within myself that your father had no idea
of your giving them any money at all. The assistance
he thought of, I dare say, was only such as might be
reasonably expected of you; for instance, such as looking
out for a comfortable small house for them, helping them
to move their things, and sending them presents of fish
and game, and so forth, whenever they are in season.
I'll lay my life that he meant nothing farther; indeed,
it would be very strange and unreasonable if he did.
Do but consider, my dear Mr. Dashwood, how excessively
comfortable your mother-in-law and her daughters may live
on the interest of seven thousand pounds, besides the
thousand pounds belonging to each of the girls, which brings
them in fifty pounds a year a-piece, and, of course,
they will pay their mother for their board out of it.
Altogether, they will have five hundred a-year amongst them,
and what on earth can four women want for more than
that?--They will live so cheap! Their housekeeping will
be nothing at all. They will have no carriage, no horses,
and hardly any servants; they will keep no company,
and can have no expenses of any kind! Only conceive
how comfortable they will be! Five hundred a year! I am
sure I cannot imagine how they will spend half of it;
and as to your giving them more, it is quite absurd to think
of it. They will be much more able to give YOU something."
"Upon my word," said Mr. Dashwood, "I believe you
are perfectly right. My father certainly could mean
nothing more by his request to me than what you say.
I clearly understand it now, and I will strictly fulfil
my engagement by such acts of assistance and kindness
to them as you have described. When my mother removes
into another house my services shall be readily given
to accommodate her as far as I can. Some little present
of furniture too may be acceptable then."
"Certainly," returned Mrs. John Dashwood. "But, however,
ONE thing must be considered. When your father and mother
moved to Norland, though the furniture of Stanhill
was sold, all the china, plate, and linen was saved,
and is now left to your mother. Her house will therefore
be almost completely fitted up as soon as she takes it."
"That is a material consideration undoubtedly.
A valuable legacy indeed! And yet some of the plate would
have been a very pleasant addition to our own stock here."
"Yes; and the set of breakfast china is twice
as handsome as what belongs to this house. A great
deal too handsome, in my opinion, for any place THEY
can ever afford to live in. But, however, so it is.
Your father thought only of THEM. And I must say this:
that you owe no particular gratitude to him, nor attention
to his wishes; for we very well know that if he could,
he would have left almost everything in the world to THEM."
This argument was irresistible. It gave to his
intentions whatever of decision was wanting before; and he
finally resolved, that it would be absolutely unnecessary,
if not highly indecorous, to do more for the widow
and children of his father, than such kind of neighbourly
acts as his own wife pointed out.